9 Delicious Budget Meals

budget meals

With so many things competing for our time and attention it can be easy (and understandable) to call for takeout/delivery or to grab something frozen out of the fridge to warm up come dinnertime. But doing that frequently can add up, cost-wise, and more importantly, isn’t the healthiest option.

What to do? Delicious budget meals to the rescue that can be done in a reasonable amount of time and can please everyone in the family. We’ve picked a range of dishes (with links to recipes) for you to try. Remember that any dish that’s not explicitly vegetarian can always be made so with some creative substitution, and for some of the dishes we’ll offer some ideas along those lines!

One Pot/One Pan

There’s a reason one pot and one pan recipes are so popular: they minimize mess and cleanup, and allow whoever’s cooking to concentrate their efforts all in one place.

Cheesy Sausage Pasta

Flavors: smoky sausage, spicy tomatoes, green chiles, Monterey Jack cheese

Prep and cook time: 30 minutes

Cost per serving: under $2

Notes: make sure to use short pasta shapes; vegetarian substitutes could include marinated tofu or jackfruit


Honey Chipotle Chicken

Flavors: sweet, smoky, spicy chicken with a caramelized finish

Prep and cook time: 50 minutes (but you should marinate the chicken overnight for best results, bringing your cook time down to 20 minutes day of with 30 minutes of prep the day before)

Cost per serving: under $2

Notes: use chicken thighs instead of breasts for best results


Creamy Chicken & Gnocchi

Flavors: rich and creamy mushrooms and onions paired with pasta

Prep and cook time: 60 minutes

Cost per serving: $3

Notes: you can cook the gnocchi separately to get a crispy texture if you want before simply folding them in with the finished sauce


Instant Pot/Slow Cooker

Why are instant pots and air fryers all the rage? They are more tools in a home cooks arsenal to make cooking easier and more varied.

Chicken Pozole

Flavors: hearty warmth against fresh vegetables with spritzes of lime

Prep and cook time: 7 hours

Cost per serving: under $2

Notes: lots of opportunity to try different ingredients and garnishes to suit you and your family’s tastes


Enchilada Casserole

Flavors: the Southwest is calling

Prep and cook time: 40 mins

Cost per serving: $2

Notes: this is going to get gobbled up pretty quickly


Kids Will Love

There’s nothing like getting the young ones involved in helping to make the food. It gets them excited about eating it and gives them an appreciation for what it takes to bring a dish to life.

Breakfast Tostadas

Flavors: beans + spice + yolk

Prep and cook time: 50 minutes

Cost per serving: under $2

Notes: top with the egg cooked the way you like and have fun with the toppings, like crispy or pickled onions


Cheeseburger Cups

Flavors: mmm, cheeseburger

Prep and cook time: 30 minutes

Cost per serving: $2

Notes: leftovers can be frozen to be baked another day!


Twists on Old Faves

Creamy Steak Fettucine

Flavors: butter and steak, can’t lose

Prep and cook time: 45 minutes

Cost per serving: $4 (varies on your preferred quality of steak)

Notes: if you marinate some tofu in something delicious overnight, that might be a solid vegetarian substitute


Kimchi and Squash Mac and Cheese

Flavors: spicy + savory + sweet

Prep and cook time: 45 minutes

Cost per serving: $2

Notes: consider sweet potato as a swap for squash or garnish with spinach or kale leaves to add a balance of color and texture (and greens for that rich dish)

Bonus: this is also a one-pot recipe!


This content originally appeared in our monthly Open Calendar Club newsletter.

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